Science & engineering students redesign the future

Their project Web sites are ready, the prototypes are working and everything is set to go for fourth-year students in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering’s Engineering Project course. They’ll put their work to the test during a demonstration on Friday, April 27, from 10am to 4pm, in the south lobby of the Computer Science & Engineering Building on York’s Keele campus.

For the past year, students enrolled in the course have been working under the supervision York University engineering Professor Eshrat Arjomandi (right) to complete their projects in engineering design. "The projects are quite sophisticated," said Arjomandi. "The students have been working on them for most of the year and are excited about demonstrating their ideas."

Working in teams of three or four, students focused on projects that offer innovative solutions to dilemmas they have encountered during the course of their undergraduate studies. Some are real-world and other projects are quite literally out of this world. The 12 project teams, drawn from all areas of the Faculty of Science & Engineering, had to develop  engineering projects that were realistic and practical, including specifications, background research, innovative solutions, analysis, testing and communication.

Specifically students put their education to the test by working in a realistic engineering design environment. The teams could either propose their own projects or choose from a list of topics provided by faculty members. The projects had to include significant elements of design and implementation and offer a realistic simulation. Along with the design and implementation, marketing and entrepreneurial skills were put to the test as students marketed their projects through a project Web page. The projects cover the gamut of possibilities and range from consumer devices.

Here’s a sampling of some of the projects:

Included in the demonstration on Friday is a unique real-time computer program that converts AM sound into FM quality. The program creates stereophonic sound from a monophonic source in real-time.

Left: The team of Danoush Dastgiri (left), Jasmine Kaur and Usman Mahmood. Missing is Ivan Ho. The group developed the Real-Time Monophonic to Stereophonic Synthesizer.

The development team hopes their innovation will become a key component of future home entertainment systems.

Other projects include a star tracker system that determines the position and attitude of a spacecraft in relation to a galaxy’s stars. The device is unique because of its tiny size and the speed at which it is able to process large calculations and keep the satellite on course. The real-world use has tremendous implications as smaller and smaller satellites are required to travel further in space where accuracy is paramount to the successful deployment of a mission.

Right: The team of Matthew Cannata (left), Vlad Popovici, Michael Greene and Scott Mulligan with their star tracker system ASIAS

Survey crews often encounter difficulties when trying to map a particular area for construction. One of the key difficulties is outdated information or lost survey markers. A project featured in the demonstration offers a geomatic survey control network for York’s Keele campus. The project inspiration came from the frustration experienced by students in Geomatics with many of the outdated and inaccurate survey markers and maps. Many current survey markers are easily destroyed or lost because of frost heaving which causes markers and metal stakes to pop out of the ground. The new system developed by the fourth-year geomatic students participating in the project involves a survey marker which resists frost heaving. The students have installed the markers around the Keele campus, completed an accurate survey and tied the data to satellite images and archived information.

With any wireless network there exists the possibility for data transmission being disrupted due to hardware failure or external interference. Enter the new WIDAR system, which stands for wireless detection and ranging.

Right: The WIDAR team of Patrick Tayao (left), Douglas Stamp and Hamdi Roumani. Missing from the photo is Tyson Hamilton. Stamp is holding a prototype of the WIDAR robot.

Developed for the fourth-year project, the WIDAR is a robotic "geek squad", and offers the potential for networks to assess the problem and re-establish the communication bridge. The WIDAR robot will automatically drive to the point of failure in the network to provide the necessary bridge to re-establish transmission with the network base.

As society ages, the potential for robotic assistants escalates. ChaserBot is a new, innovative way to track a willing participant using a visual recognition system. By combining computer vision with robotics, it is possible to autonomously follow a target with accurate ranging and distancing. The student group’s goal was to design a robot that could avoid obstacles, both stationary and moving, without losing its target and be smart enough to follow around corners.The target could be something as simple as a vest that a shopper puts on when entering a store; as the person shops, the robot follows along. The project has implications for automated shopping cart attendants that follow shoppers and carry their purchases.

Right: The Chaserbot

Looking for water on Mars is akin to looking for a needle in a haystack. Researchers are now looking to ground-penetrating radar technology. The technology, while not new, has many applications, such as the detection of land mines, utility lines and buried objects. It has also been deployed on many orbital satellites for planetary exploration. Current technology is limited by poor resolution and low penetration. The new GPR system developed by students in the York course offers a higher frequency carrier signal which provides a better resolution of data required to determine if there is water on Mars.

The system developed by the York team can be used in parallel with the data collected from previous missions. It can help narrow the search location for subsurface ice which is vital to human missions to Mars.

Below is a full list of projects and design teams particpating in the demonstration with links to the project Web sites:

X-Ray Graphical Stud-Finder: Elias Papadopoulos, Francesco Cassullo, Steve Martinelli. Adviser: Professor John Amanatides, Department of Computer Science & Engineering.

Survey Control Network for York University: Gordon Jackson, Rachana Ravi, Michael McKechnie. Adviser: Professor Spiros Pagiatakis, Professor Jian-Guo Wang, Department of Geomatics Engineering.

Real-Time Monophonic to Stereophonic Synthesizer: Danoush Dastgiri, Ivan Ho, Jasmine Kaur, Usman Mahmood. Adviser: Professor Amir Asif, Department of Computer Science & Engineering.

SecuRobot: Greg Stuart, Maysam Sorkhabi, Navid Mohaghegh, Poorya Jafari. Adviser: Professor Minas Spetsakis, Department of Computer Science & Engineering.

Electrostatic Ion Engine: Rafal Dabkowski, Petra Sotornik Austin McAuley. Adviser: Professor Brendan Quine, Department of Earth & Space Science & Engineering.

Wireless Detection and Ranging (WIDAR): Hamdi Roumani, Tyson Hamilton, Douglas Stamp, Patrick Tayao. Adviser: Professor Natalija Vlajic, Department of Computer Science & Engineering.

Streaming Video Over Mobile Ad-Hoc Network: Sameer Tewar, Rudran Sooriyapalan, Bunarith Tan. Advisers: Professors Amir Asif and Uyen Trang Nguyen, Department of Computer Science & Engineering.

Ground Penetrating Radar System: Nimal Navarathinam, Kartheephan Sathiyanathan, Amee Shah, Azher Shareef. Adviser: Professor Brendan Quine, Department of Earth & Space Science & Engineering.

Autonomous Star-Imaging Attitude Sensor (ASIAS) : Michael Greene, Vlad Popovici, Scott Mulligan, Matthew Cannata. Adviser: Professor Brendan Quine, Department of Earth & Space Science & Engineering.

Solar Sail: Interplanetary Propulsion System (SSIPS) : Shreyas Bidadi, Ryan Orszulik, Alexander Dolgansky. Adviser: Professor Jinjun Shan, Department of Earth & Space Science & Engineering.

Distributed Operational Object Mobilize (DOOM) : Pierre Malavoy, Amir Saeidi, Derek Poon, Leo Chan. Adviser: Professor Minas Spetsakis, Department of Computer Science & Engineering.

Chaserbot: Anthony Badali, Lowell Crotin, Mike Liscombe, Andrew Speers. Advisers: Professors Richard Hornsey and Minas Spetsakis, Department of Computer Science & Engineering.